Augmented Reality is all the rage in technology circles these days. In essence, it is the skilful application that sees technology integrated into our real-world environment, blurring the line between what is real and what is computer-generated. It does this by enhancing all that we take in through our five senses and, unlike virtual computer-generated reality environments, augmented reality is closer to reality: it adds graphics, light, sounds, and smell to the natural world as it exists.
In 2014, CoeLux released an artificial skylight solution that replaces natural sunlight in enclosed environments. It was so unique that it won the Lux 2014 Award for Light Source Innovation of the Year. The award-winning system uses nano-technology to artificially reproduce natural light and visual appearances of the sun and sky, creating what is described by CoeLux on their website as “the sensation of infinite space.”
The technology can be used by those expanding properties downwards in their West London mansions and can provide retailers with the ability to control their lighted spaces. I, for one, think CoeLux’s skylight poses two questions for architectural design. Firstly, is the external world, which was once a key prerequisite in allowing natural light to illuminate an internal space, now a secondary one? And secondly, will the external design of a building be overshadowed by its internal functionality, resulting in more box-like structures appearing to create new spaces underground?
When evaluating this new technology, it is important to consider the problems faced by many metropolitan environs such as London and New York. Increasing property prices, shortage of land to build on and land banking are just a few of the issues making it more difficult for those who want to live in these cities.
Implementing this technology would allow for more efficient space allocation, hidden from view yet still habitable, and new-build architecture would become window-dressing rather than relied upon for its functional use. A lot more could be achieved with far less space. Interesting and innovative, CoeLux’s product has its place and uses, carrying the potential to provide simulated natural light in spaces that are limited through design; the positive impacts on design and urban space are vast.
There are environmental implications though. Rather than relying on using more natural forms of light to illuminate these spaces, energy use would increase to make this solution work. Although only time will tell given how new this product is to the market, it would seem that for all its advantages during this time of population growth, CoeLux’s skylight is not without its negatives either. If used in the future, the skylight could also produce some very un-inspiring and boring metropolitan architecture, where internal function overrides external form, and this is a concern.
Personally, I’d like to see the technology work in small-scale purposeful contexts, rather than as a mass solution, to ensure the urban environment is not boxed up using unsustainable energy resources. Augmented reality should do what it says: augment, not define, the context and spaces we inhabit.
Words: Julian Fedosiuk
Image Source: CoeLux